News / Asia

Thailand Sets July 3rd Election

Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva greets as he walks on the hallway of the Government House in Bangkok, May 9, 2011
Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva greets as he walks on the hallway of the Government House in Bangkok, May 9, 2011
Daniel Schearf

Thailand has announced plans to hold a national election in July that many hope will bring stability to the country’s turbulent politics. The vote is expected to be a close race between Thailand’s traditional elite, represented by the ruling Democrat party of Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and an opposition supported by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra. 

This week Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva announced the dissolution of the House of Representatives, clearing the way for a July 3 nationwide election.

In a recorded message broadcast on national television, Abhisit said a return to polls could restore stability to the country’s politics.  

He says the election is a new beginning for Thailand to move forward to effectively solve problems for people and families under democratic procedures.

Despite the prime minister’s optimism, political analysts are skeptical about the prospects for healing Thailand’s deep divisions.

The opposition Puea Thai party is backed by former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who the military ousted in a 2006 coup. Since then, Thailand has been rocked by protests and violence in a power struggle between a traditional elite backed by the military and Thaksin’s supporters.

Thitinan Pongsudhirak, director of the Institute of Security and International Studies at Bangkok’s Chulalongkorn University, says Thaksin’s opponents have shown they are willing to go to great lengths to prevent his supporters from again holding power.

"The anti-Thaksin side, the establishment, they have tried to do all kinds of things to prevent this outcome, including a military coup, writing a new constitution, dissolving Thaksin's parties, banning the politicians of those parties, brokering the Abhisit government in the barracks," he said. "And, Abhisit government after two years in power still cannot win the hearts and minds."

Recent opinion polls give the Puea Thai party a slight lead over Abhisit’s ruling Democrats.

Last year thousands of opposition protesters known as Red Shirts occupied parts of the Thai capital for two months, demanding a new election and an end to what they said was unfair treatment of their leaders.

Abhisit ordered the military to clear the demonstration, resulting in clashes that left more than 90 people dead, most of them civilians.

Brad Adams, Asia chief for Human Rights Watch, told the Bangkok Foreign Correspondents Club last week that there has been no credible investigation into the deaths.

"It is clear that both sides still have very raw feelings about what happened last year.  Both sides are going to use what happened last year as part of their campaign," he said. "And, I do not think there’s any prospect for getting to a point of reconciliation in the next two months during the campaign period. In fact, the campaign period is going to exacerbate this problem, undoubtedly."

Red Shirt leaders involved in the protests have been charged with terrorism and insulting the monarchy, which carries a penalty of up to 15 years in prison. However no soldiers have been charged, despite evidence that rights groups say shows the military killed unarmed protesters.

Rungrawee Chalermsripinyorat, Southeast Asia analyst for the International Crisis Group, says a key problem in Thailand is political interference in the justice system, which undermines faith in the government.

"This is something that the judiciary will have to try to address and that comes the issue of justice reform in this country, that how are we going to make people trust the judiciary, the justice system in this country," she said. "That, you know, all people, whoever that violate the law, will be treated equally."

Red-Shirt protesters say the government continues to crack down on them. In recent weeks the military has shut down Red Shirt-allied community radio stations and detained Red Shirt supporters.

Thailand has a rich history of military interventions in politics, with 18 coups or attempted coups since 1932. Despite rumors that the military will again intervene to prevent a Red Shirt election victory, army officials deny that they will stage another coup.

Analyst Thitinan in Bangkok predicts that without some kind of political compromise from both sides there will be no peaceful resolution to the current conflict.  

"Many people have a vested interest in this establishment, in the established socio-political hierarchy, and it's very difficult to let that go," said Thitinan. "And, also, if we let all of that go, what comes next could be worse. So, somehow, a way in between, a compromise in between, is the best way forward. Both sides have to recognize that and reach out to the other side."

Among the Thai public, there seems to be little hope that political leaders will agree to such a compromise.

A survey this year by the non-profit Asia Foundation indicated that more than 80 percent of Thais believe that the country’s political divisions will once again lead to violence.

You May Like

Nearly Every Job in America Mapped in Detail

A nifty map pinpoints practically every job in the United States, revealing the economic character of America’s metropolitan areas, which also helps to inform the local culture

Corruption Busting Is Her Game

South African activist is building 'international online community of thousands of corruption fighters'

Former SAF Businessman Gives Books, Love of Reading to Students

Steve Tsakaris now involved in nonprofit Read to Rise, which distributes books in Soweto, encourages lower-grade primary school students to read

This forum has been closed.
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs